‘Vengeance: Killer Families: Barrel of Bones’ recounts the case involving the killing of Christine Smith. Discovered three years after her disappearance, determining the cause of her death and finding any DNA evidence linking it to another person proved challenging for the police. After extensive efforts, law enforcement eventually focused their investigation on her daughter, Brookey Lee West. However, the motive behind her committing such a crime turned out to be more bizarre than anyone could have anticipated.
How Did Christine Smith Die?
On February 5, 2001, a manager at a Las Vegas storage facility contacted the police to report a foul odor emanating from one of the storage units. Upon arrival, the police opened the unit and discovered a 55-gallon regular trash can emitting a putrid smell and leaking an unknown liquid. Initially suspecting the body to be that of a child due to its size, the police began to unwrap layers of plastic covering the can. To their surprise, they uncovered the remains of a frail elderly woman.
In the same room, the police also discovered a handbag containing ID cards belonging to Christine Smith. Through forensic analysis and cross-referencing with police reports, they determined that Smith had been missing for three years. Her face was covered with a plastic bag, suggesting that she had either been smothered or strangled. Unfortunately, due to the advanced state of decomposition, determining the exact cause of Smith’s death proved impossible for the police.
Who Killed Christine Smith?
Christine Smith was born in 1932 to first-generation immigrant parents from Eastern Europe, and her early life was marked by difficulties. It has been revealed in the episode that she was compelled into prostitution by her parents during her childhood. At the age of 16, Christine entered into marriage, but her union was far from harmonious. After a few years, she married Leroy Smith, a U.S. Army veteran employed by the El Paso Police. Together, they had two children, Brookey in 1953 and Travis in 1956. Following Leroy’s job loss with the police department, the family relocated to California, seeking to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the boom in the region.
Leroy himself was a problematic figure, identifying as a white supremacist and a Satanist, actively engaging in occult practices. In 1961, Christine pulled a gun on a man with whom she was having an affair, attempting to shoot him. Consequently, she was arrested for assault but was released after a few months. Following her release, Christine and Leroy separated. Subsequently, Christine struggled with heavy alcohol dependence and proved to be an inadequate mother, a source of resentment that Brookey Lee West carried with her. Christine’s son, Travis, faced mental health challenges and battled drug dependency, ultimately leading him to a life of homelessness. Despite the difficulties, Brookey managed to become a technical writer.
Brookey’s association with unconventional beliefs extended beyond her troubled family background. She maintained regular contact with her father and had embraced Satanism herself. In 1994, she entered into marriage with a man named Howard Simon St. John. Following an argument, Brookey allegedly assaulted him with a handgun. Although he initially filed charges, they were later retracted. Just two weeks after the incident, Howard was discovered dead in the California National Forest Area. His body bore gunshot wounds, and a bag was found over his face. Given that Howard had other individuals with potential motives to harm him, Brookey was never suspected of his death.
In 1996, Brookey’s father was grappling with cancer and was in a marital relationship with a woman named Diane Smith. Diane alleged that Brookey had attacked her using a Taser and attempted to push her down, but Diane managed to escape. By 1997, Christine relocated to a Las Vegas apartment, which was financially supported by Brookey. However, by 1998, Christine mysteriously disappeared from the area. When questioned by Christine’s acquaintances in the building, Brookey claimed that her mother had moved in with Travis. Nevertheless, the police found no evidence to support this claim. Further investigation revealed that the storage unit where Christine’s remains were discovered was rented under Brookey’s name. Additionally, Brookey had been unlawfully cashing her mother’s social security checks.
Faced with the mounting evidence regarding Christine, Brookey asserted that her mother had died of natural causes, causing her to panic and dispose of the body in a garbage truck. However, the police discovered coffin flies instead of blowflies on top of the garbage bin, indicating that the body was placed in the container either immediately after Christine’s death or while she was still alive. Subsequently, on September 5, 2001, Brookey was arrested for the murder of her mother.
Where is Brookey Lee West Now?
Brookey Lee West’s trial commenced on July 3, 2001, resulting in her conviction for the first-degree murder of her mother. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. In 2004, Brookey filed for a retrial, asserting that her mother died naturally in her sleep. However, her claims were rejected, and her sentence was upheld. She served her sentence at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center. In 2012, she attempted to escape from the prison but was apprehended and disciplined. Current records indicate that she is currently held at an out-of-state confinement facility in Nevada.